A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)The measure of following Jesus is love, a love that will manifest itself as unity:
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, RSV)Unity is essential to the followers of Jesus. It is not just a friendliness or a togetherness, but perfect oneness: "that they may be one even as we are one"--we, Jesus' followers, are to have the oneness of God! In other words, Christians should give themselves completely to each other just as do the Persons of the Trinity, who are themselves complete gift of self. As the Church is the body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12:13, Ephesians 1:23), she should reveal the love and unity of God.
The love among His disciples reveals their discipleship and finds its model in Christ in the total outpouring of His love on the cross. Unity lies at the heart of his mission; Jesus died for the unity of God's children: "Jesus [would] die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." (John 11:51-52). The Acts of the Apostles confirms the reality of unity in the early Church when it reports that "the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul..." (4:32).
How is it possible to remain divided, if we have been "buried" through Baptism in the Lord's death, in the very act by which God, through the death of his Son, has broken down the walls of division? Division "openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature". (UUS, no. 5, cf. UR 1)
Lack of unity is a serious obstacle to the witness of evangelization. Division contradicts the truth of the Gospel, an essential element of which is the call to unity, so that non-believers who meet missionaries each preaching different versions of the Gospel will think it to be a source of division, despite its presentation as a way of love. (cf. UUS nos. 23, 98)
Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi [no. 77] put it this way:
As evangelizers, we must offer Christ's faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church ... At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of Christ.
There are many contributing causes behind division, but in the end, we must blame the sins of us Christians. No one is innocent of the sins that have led to division; exclusively blaming the "other side" is not only unhelpful, but also false:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (I John 1:8-10)We Christians are sinners, called to conversion by the Lord who came to save sinners, not the just. Individual Christians as well as Christian communities must examine their consciences, acknowledge their condition as sinners and ask God for grace to undergo an interior conversion--to be radically (``to the root'') converted to the Truth of Christ. We must ask for the grace to leave useless controversies behind.
Healing the divisions between Churches will take conversion-- deep interior conversion, and this will require prayer:
If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of how little divides them in comparison to what unites them. If they meet more often and more regularly before Christ in prayer, they will be able to gain the courage to face all the painful human reality of their divisions, and they will find themselves together once more in that community of the Church which Christ constantly builds up in the Holy Spirit, in spite of all weaknesses and human limitations." (UUS 21)This interior conversion is nothing but the very heart of the gospel itself: to admit our faults and place ourselves in the hands of Christ, our one intercessor before the Father.
The Catholic Church does not exempt herself from this call to conversion. The Second Vatican council does not ignore the fact that "people on both sides were to blame" for causing the divisions among Christians." (UR no. 3) Pope John Paul II for his part writes: "The Catholic Church acknowledges and confesses the weaknesses of her members, conscious that their sins are so many betrayals of and obstacles to the accomplishment of the Savior's plan." (UUS no. 3)
Despite the sins of all Christians, optimism should reign in our hearts, since we have the solid foundation of Christ as the basis of our hope for unity. As Pope John Paul II explains, "Christian unity is possible":
All the sins of the world were gathered up in the saving sacrifice of Christ, including the sins committed against the Church's unity: the sins of Christians, those of the pastors no less than those of the lay faithful. Even after the many sins which have contributed to our historical divisions, Christian unity is possible, provided that we are humbly conscious of having sinned against unity and are convinced of our need for conversion. Not only personal sins must be forgiven and left behind, but also social sins, which is to say the sinful "structures" themselves which have contributed and can still contribute to division and to the reinforcing of division. (UUS, no. 34)Our hope looks to the unity present at the birth of the Church and throughout the first millenium of Christianity, when all believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42) On this point Pope John Paul II writes: "By engaging in frank dialogue, Communities help one another to look at themselves together in the light of the Apostolic Tradition. This leads them to ask themselves whether they truly express in an adequate way all that the Holy Spirit has transmitted through the Apostles." (UUS n 16; cf. DV 7)
The teaching of the Apostles is key to unity. In the priestly prayer of Jesus quoted at the beginning of this essay, He says, "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word...". "These" are the Apostles; everyone who believes does so "through their word". Thus we say that the Church, the true Church, is apostolic, which is to say that it preserves the teaching of the Apostles, which they received from Christ himself. This characteristic is also applied to the Church in the earliest succint formulation of the faith, the Apostles' Creed.
The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said that ``not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is.''
The purpose of this section of the Apologetics Toolkit is to clarify the truth taught by the Catholic Church. nevertheless it should be kept in mind that the ultimate purpose of this Toolkit is not good doctrine, but the love of God. As the Roman Catechism said
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. (preface 10, cf. I Cor 13:8)
In the end, it is the love of Christ that will fully unify his followers.
Ut Unum Sint ("That They Be One"), encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II (25 V 1995).
Unitatis Redinegratio, Vatican II decree on ecumenism (21 XI 1964).
Dei Verbum ("The Word of God"), Vatican II dogmatic constitution on divine revelation (18 XI 1965).
Lumen Gentium, Vatican II dogmatic constitution on the Church (21 XI 1964)
John 17:9-11 John 10:16 one fold John 17:21-3 that all may be one John 15:5 the vine I Cor 1:10-6 let there be unity of mind Gal 3:27-28 all have been baptized in Christ Ephesians 4:1-6, 15-16 unity in the mystical body Gal 1:6-9 if another gospel... John 13:35 by this will all know you are my disciples Acts 4:32 one heart and one soul Acts 20:29 scattered sheep John 10:12 scattered sheep
One of the advantages of ecumenism is that it helps Christian Communities to discover the unfathomable riches of the truth. Here too, everything that the Spirit brings about in "others" can serve for the building up of all Communities and in a certain sense instruct them in the mystery of Christ. Authentic ecumenism is a gift at the service of truth. (UUS no. 38)
On the other hand, Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments for our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in his works and worthy of all praise.
Nor should we forget that anything wrought by grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the the faith; indeed, it can always bring a more perfect realization of the very mystery of Christ and the Church. (UR no. 4)
Love gives rise to the desire for unity, even in those who have never been aware of the need for it. Love builds communion between individuals and between Communities. If we love one another, we strive to deepen our communion and make it perfect. Love is given to God as the perfect source of communion-the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit-that we may draw from that source the strength to build communion between individuals and Communities, or to re-establish it between Christians still divided. Love is the great undercurrent which gives life and adds vigour to the movement towards unity. (UUS 21)
This love finds its most complete expression in common prayer. When brothers and sisters who are not in perfect communion with one another come together to pray, the Second Vatican Council defines their prayer as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement. This prayer is "a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity", "a genuine expression of the ties which even now bind Catholics to their separated brethren".[UR 8] Even when prayer is not specifically offered for Christian unity, but for other intentions such as peace, it actually becomes an expression and confirmation of unity. The common prayer of Christians is an invitation to Christ himself to visit the community of those who call upon him: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). (UUS 21)